Saturday, September 22, 2018

Cruise 2018 – Where we went and some numbers

Below is a map of the places we visited on our 2018 cruise. If you click on a mark it will name the location and give some numbers associated with our visit to it.

A link to the map that will open in a standalone window is here.

This was our eighth cruise to/from SE Alaska.  It was the shortest trip by distance covered and second shortest by days away from our homeport.  Despite that, we covered a lot of ground and managed to visit most of the areas we normally do plus anchored in 14 new (to us) locations along the way.  The table below summarizes the numbers for all eight trips.

Year # of Days Miles (NM) Eng. Hrs.
2010 129 3,221.3 517.1
2011 115 3,465.3 577.4
2013 151 3,666.9 630.0
2014 141 4,052.0 720.8
2015 104 3,580.1 629.2
2016 141 3,978.7 700.0
2017 140 3,816.9 656.5
2018 112 3,169.5 528.6
Total 1,033 28,950.7 4,959.6

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Port McNeill to Bainbridge Island – The End

2018-Cruise-381xSeveral times during our cruise this season we encountered groups of jet skis. While in Port McNeill, we saw this group come in to refuel.  The similarity between these jet ski groups cruising the Inside Passage to motorcycle groups cruising the highways is striking.

2018-Cruise-383xFrom Port McNeill we headed into the Broughton Archipelago for a few days. We visited Turnbull Cove where we took the2018-Cruise-388x dinghy to the outlet of Roaringhole Rapid, a reversing rapids connecting to Nepah Lagoon.  We then anchored in Greenway Sound and did the hike to Broughton Lake.

Our last night in the Broughtons was at the Lagoon Cove Marina where we again met up with Billie & Mike Henry on Peachy Keen.  Billie is a great Seahawks fan and they invited us to watch the last preseason game of the year with them (they hooked up their dish antenna and got it synced with a satellite).

The transiting of Johnstone Straits was the usual improvisation of piecing together channels to time rapids and avoid the strong afternoon winds that were blowing in Johnstone.  This year we ran Whirlpool Rapids a couple of hours before slack against the ebb current (it was a Neap tide and not too bad) in order to hit Greene Point Rapids at the slack before the flood. We spent the night at Cameleon Harbour then the next day transited the Upper Rapids in Okisollo Channel on the morning slack, lunched in the Octopus Islands and transited Beazley Pass on the afternoon slack.  The night was spent at Rebecca Spit in Drew Harbour.

We had generally excellent conditions in the Strait of Georgia when we ran from Rebecca Spit all the way to Nanoose Harbour.  The southeast winds were picking up as entered Nanoose Harbour and we tucked behind the spit at Fleet Point for some protection against the chop.  Of course the wind clocked 180 degrees and soon we had 15 knot northwest winds sending chop the length of the harbor.

The next day, Labor Day, the northwest winds were still blowing as we left Nanoose Harbour, worked our way through Nanaimo Harbour and hit Dodd Narrows at the slack before the ebb.  We spent a quiet night with several dozen other boats in Montague Harbour.

2018-Cruise-391xThe next morning we made an early crossing of Boundary Pass, cleared US Customs by phone (thanks to our Nexus cards), anchored in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island and hiked out to Turn Point.

After our night in Prevost Harbor, we headed to Deer Harbor where our yacht club has an outstation at the marina.  We were able to get a space at the dock and spent 4 nights.  We took advantage of the fast Internet to research and order materials to be delivered to our Bainbridge Island mail box for the list of projects we’ve identified to accomplished in the Fall. 

As we departed Deer Harbor on Sunday, 9/9, the weather was clearly changing and we had heavy rain showers while at anchor in Parks Bay on Shaw Island.  We spent the following night in Echo Bay on Sucia where I walked the trails for a couple of hours. 

On Tuesday we headed to Anacortes where we spent a couple of nights.  While there we added fuel, had our furnace serviced and met our friends, Natala and Don Goodman, for dinner.

An early start on Thursday, 9/13, allowed us to get back to our yacht club’s outstation in Eagle Harbor in the late afternoon, completing our summer 2018 cruise.

Miles traveled this leg – 428.2; engine hours – 69.6
Total miles traveled – 3169.5; engine hours – 528.6

Saturday, August 25, 2018

In Port McNeill

We arrived yesterday afternoon in Port McNeill after rounding Cape Caution from our anchorage in Frypan Bay on Penrose Island.  While not super rough, we put our stabilizers (i.e., the “fish”) in the water to attenuate the rolling from the waves (the first time in 2 years since we had to do so).  Maggie-cat, bless her heart, did not get sea sick the entire time.

The trip south from Ketchikan was fine.  We stopped in Prince Rupert for a night and at Shearwater for a night.  Otherwise, we had many beautiful anchorages with generally good weather. 

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As we traveled south, we did start to see the effects of the fires in the BC interior.  First it was orange moons and suns, later it was smoke and smoke mixed with thick fog.  For several days while in Fitzhugh Sound, the fog was so thick (less than 200 yard visibility) we could not see the trees on the shore of the cove we were anchored in.  It was disorienting and we remained at anchor until the visibility improved to at least 1/2 mile visibility, which did not occur until the afternoon.. 

Some fish were caught along the way, although not as many as last year.  Marcia did catch an unexpected king salmon which thrilled her greatly.  We did some prawning in our favorite spots and added them to the freezer.

We visited a few new (to us, anyway) anchorages, which we can add to our options for stops in future years.  We crossed paths in Frypan Bay with Billie & Mike Henry on Peachy Keen.  They are longtime cruisers (>30 years and 17 trips to SE Alaska).  Their success at fishing is also something we aspire to.

Miles traveled this leg – 740.2; engine hours – 141.4 (lots of trolling)
Total miles traveled – 2741.3; engine hours – 459.0

Friday, August 3, 2018

On to Ketchikan – July 16 to August 1

After filling our water tanks and disposing of our trash/recyclables in Bartlett Cove we head east in Icy Strait than south down to Chatham Strait to Pavlof Harbor.  There is a perfect “bear beach” in the anchorage which didn’t disappoint, with two youngster bears (perhaps only recently sent packing by their mother) in the evening and then a sow with two cubs the next morning.

We continued south in Chatham Strait and as we approached Kasnyku Bay we saw lots of whale activity.  Since we had seen so little activity up to this point, we stopped the engine for a short time and drifted while listening to the whale exhalations.  Since whales are mostly below the water (barring the very exciting breaches), often times it is the auditory “viewing” of whales that is most enjoyable.  The sound of exhalations easily carry a mile across the open water on a calm day.  2018-Cruise-291Just outside of Takatz Bay, our anchorage for the night, Marcia put a hook down and we trolled for salmon for an hour before going in.  Lots of salmon jumping but not much biting. 

The next morning, July 18, we continued down to Warm Springs Bay, and fished for halibut outside the entrance.  Marcia lost some bait to a wily fish but nothing to the bait with the hook in it.  We crossed to the east side of Chatham Strait to try fishing at Kingsmill Point but the wind had kicked up at this point and we elected to go in for the night.  The anchorage was a new one to us in Security Bay on Kuiu Island.

Bright and early the next morning, we were out at Kingsmill trolling for salmon on the morning bite.  It was pretty clear that the coho/silver salmon had not started their run yet as a couple of hours of trolling yielded only a feisty pink salmon.  We called it quits and headed over to Gut Bay for the night.

The next morning the plan was to continue the fishing activities but when we popped out into Chatham we changed our plans.  An offshore ridge was forming giving SE Alaska 2018-Cruise-293xmost sunny weather but as the ridge was building, the north winds were starting to build.  Chatham Strait, which runs for 120 miles in a N-S direction (200 miles if you include Lynn Canal with which it connects), offers a perfect channel for the wind to run.  We beat our way north to Red Bluff Bay. Turned out others had the same idea and we ended up in the outer bay rather than at the head.

2018-Cruise-308xThe next morning, July 21, we beat our way across 2018-Cruise-310xChatham Strait to Frederick Sound where the winds were light and the seas calm and worked our way up towards Pybus Bay.  We spent 3 nights in the area during which Marcia caught two nice size halibuts.  We also watched some glorious sunsets and moon rises.  Both the sun 2018-Cruise-313xand moon had an orange cast but we heard nothing about what might have contributed to it.

Before we headed to Petersburg, We checked out a couple of anchorages we had not been to.  The first was Hobart Bay and the second was Cleveland Passage.  On Thursday, July 26, we docked in Petersburg at high slack when the currents are running less strong pass the docks.

After two nights in Petersburg, we caught the afternoon high tide through Wrangell Narrows and spent the night in St John Harbor on Zarembo Island, due south of the 2018-Cruise-326xentrance to Wrangell Narrows. From here we headed first to Thom’s Place and then to Santa Anna Inlet, doing some prawning along the way.

All during the previous week or so, we were having stunningly clear skies, warm temperatures and calm winds.  Most evenings were spent watching the sun go down from the flybridge and, this being Alaska, killing horse flies.  But by this time, the forecasts were hinting of changes.  On July 31, we made for Meyers Chuck (full size version of photo below), at the junction of Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait.

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With an early start to catch the southbound ebb tide we arrived in Ketchikan on August 1 and will stay here a few days while some rain and high winds pass through.

Miles traveled this leg – 511.2; engine hours – 88.8
Total miles traveled – 2001.1; engine hours – 317.6

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Glacier Bay – July 9-16

We have visited Glacier Bay National Park every time we’ve come to Alaska.  This was our 8th time (not counting the 1-day visit on a cruise ship in 2006) visiting the park and we still enjoy it.  It is a wonderful combination of scenery, wildlife, natural history and solitude that makes every trip worthwhile.

Different from past years was that we chose not to get an advanced notice permit (obtainable 60 days in advance) but rather a short notice permit (48 hours in advance).  That worked well this year on account of all of the disruptions we had to our typical cruise schedule (i.e., late departure and furnace repair).  By being prompt with our application we were able to get the dates July 10-16 for our visit.

We left Juneau on Sunday, July 8 and headed to Excursion Inlet on the north side of Icy Strait. The forecast we for increasing westerly winds and we thought Excursion Inlet better protected than Flynn Cove our usual pre-Glacier Bay anchorage.  When we checked the forecast on the morning of July 9, the forecast for the next day had deteriorated further so we phoned the Park Service and were able to get a 1-day permit to enter the park on July 9. This allowed us to anchor in Bartlett 2017-07-256xCove (the park headquarters) rather than getting beat up in Icy Strait while entering the park on July 10.

2018-Cruise-064xWe ended up spending two nights in Bartlett Cove but took advantage of the time to visit the Huna Tribal House and do the short forest walk around the pond.  The tribal house is just gorgeous inside and we saw a moose with her calf while on the walk.

A2018-Cruise-183xt our N Sandy Cove anchorage we had quite a bear show.  It started with a black bear working the shoreline, followed up with a brown bear sow with two cubs and concluded with a confrontation 2018-Cruise-195xbetween the sow and a male brown bear pursuing her.  All of this transpired a few hundred yards away. The sow chased off the male once but as the sun set, the male resumed his dogged pursuit and the drama was not resolved.

2018-Cruise-269xThe day we went up to the head of Tarr Inlet and glacial ice, we had calm conditions and very little floating ice to deal with.  That gave us the opportunity to anchor in the small bight on the west shore of Tarr Inlet a mile or so south of the Margerie Glacier.  2018-Cruise-284xWe were rewarded with a view of the glacial face overnight (along with periodic rumbles and crashes) and bits of ice floating by.  Fortunately, nothing large floated by to hang up on our anchor chain.

2018-Cruise-135xAt South Marble Island we had the usual assortment of birds and sea lions. Unlike last year, we saw no goats on the cliffs of Gloomy Knob. Also not present in the numbers we’ve seen in the past were humpback whales.  Research indicates that the number of whales in Glacier Bay/Icy Strait have dropped by over 40% from their peak in 2011.  This is distressing news as humpback whales are such a key element to the Alaska experience.

Miles traveled this leg – 230.3; Engine hours – 37.1
Total miles traveled – 1489.9; Engine hours – 228.8

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hanging Around Juneau

2018-Cruise-036x

Job number 1 upon docking in Juneau on Monday, July 2, was removing the failed Kabola dashboard and shipping off to Marine-Tec in Anacortes. While Marcia went to the post office to check on shipping options, I removed the unit. With Wednesday being the July 4th holiday, we quickly concluded that getting it to Marine-Tec before Thursday would be impossible or cost prohibitive. We took the route we’ve taken before and using USPS Priority Mail. Because we can have USPS packages sent to general delivery, it is often the only way when you’re a transient boater.

2018-Cruise-053xWith the package on the way, we could turn to taking advantage of that rare Alaska feature, sunshine. The forecast was for hot (high 70’s) weather for Tuesday through Thursday. We also had the happy discovery that the road construction on the Glacier Highway from Auke Lake to 2018-Cruise-052xStatter Harbor (where we are) was now complete and it had wide sidewalks and shoulders that were bike friendly. The new pathways now connects Auke Bay with the existing bike paths and routes that go all the way into downtown Juneau. It was obviously time to break out the folding bikes.

2018-Cruise-045xTwice we rode the 8 miles (16 miles RT) from the harbor to the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center 16 miles. In doing so, we rode past the Safeway which is the closest grocery store at 2-1/2 miles. Another 2 miles further along the bike route is the Fred Meyers. We now can do shopping for light-weight items, such as produce, meats or bread without renting a car or taking a bus.

Given the warm weather, we decided that the appropriate lunch after a bike ride was a milk shake from Hot Bites, a fast food restaurant in the parking lot at the harbor.

The Statter Harbor at Auke Bay is extraordinarily busy this time of year. First, the transient mooring area is totally 2018-Cruise-040xopen and mooring locations are not assigned by the harbor. You must go in and look around to find a spot to tie up. Second, it is heavily used by commercial fisherman (seiners, gill netters and trollers) while they wait for the fishing openings announced by the Alaska Fish & Game. Third, many of the excursion boats for the cruise ship passengers originate from here, lots of bus traffic and camera-toting 2018-Cruise-050xtourists on the docks and in the parking lot. Fourth, many mega-yachts (>100 feet) stage out of here while they pickup and drop off their guests and reprovision. We’ve got six on the outer dock right now. Lastly, when the weather is nice, the view up to the mountains is quite spectacular.

All in all, if you have to wait for parts, Juneau turned out to be a pretty pleasant place to do so.

Monday, July 2, 2018